Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm not Mrs. Ostrich, but I Play One in My Head

I owe her an apology. For my pride, and thinking I have it easier. I admit, though I never formed the words, "Well, at least I don't have...." they circled inside my head many times last week.

Last week, I was a companion to her son. You see, for our church's Vacation Bible School, I am a special needs shadow. I go where I am needed. And this time, I was needed with a seven year old boy with Down's Syndrome. He was the sweetest little guy and I have nothing negative to say about him at all.

That isn't why I owe his mother an apology. I enjoyed my time with him. He was obedient, and agreed to everything I asked. My job simply consisted of redirecting him and reminding him where he needed to be. He would look at me with his deep brown eyes and say, "Yeah." Everything was "yeah." And it was fine. It really was. Until I was driving home by myself and the nasty little thoughts overtook me.

In my house, intelligence is prized. We all have high IQs and it is important to use our intellect. Maybe it is more important to me, than other family members, I don't know. But I found, as I drove home, and my thoughts roamed, that somehow though my children have high-functioning autism, it is exactly that: high. I rationalized, at least they function well, and respond to me and are smart.. And that's when I mentally slapped myself alongside my own damn head.

"At least my kids aren't like that." And as soon as I thought it, I was ashamed. Because, who am I to set up a hierarchy when it comes to special needs' parenting? We all have a hard time. We have all sat up in the middle of the night, crying and worrying about the fate of our children. We have endured the well-meaning questions and "Will he always be that way" from strangers. We have learned how to deal with what God has given us, with mostly grace, but sometimes anger. The point is, we are all in the same boat, and still bailing.

You know, if you'd been there, you would have done the same thing. You would have smacked me. And? I deserved it. I am only thankful that I was alone and didn't stick my foot in it by voicing that stupid thought aloud. But also admit, it, you have thought it, too. But...guess what? There is NO hierarchy in special needs parenting. I don't have it better than anyone else. We are all in this together. We all were dealt a rough hand, and it is what it is.

And so, I owe his mother, and everyone else, an apology for my arrogance. I hope you can forgive me, and my hidden pride. And I just want to remind anyone else who thinks this way: KNOCK IT OFF! We don't need to pick at one another...we need to band together. Instead of sticking our heads in the sand and pretending it doesn't happen, we need to attack it head on. It is not okay, and we need to call ourselves on it.

T, who feels like an idiot

What do you think? Do you think there is a hierarchy in special needs' parenting? Have you experienced it?

7 sent chocolate:

mamikaze said...

That is perfectly normal, perfectly healthy. You weren't thinking anything negative or different that 99% of parents of special needs children, myself included. Cut yourself some slack, mama!

Mel @ A Box of Chocolates said...

You're human...what else can we say!! Thanks for reminding us though to stop and think. We do need to come together and share the love. I forgive you for being an idiot now and happens to the best of us!!

Elizabeth Channel said...

Ok, first I say you shouldn't be so hard on yourself, but the fact that you are says a lot about the kind of person you are: incredibly introspective and kind.

You know I have been working on a post that discusses this very issue, and your post has given me key perspective.

Since I (or my child, rather) dwell in some miasma of diagnosis-less confusion, I don't have a "place." Do I fit with the SPD people or the ASD people or both? Do the ASD people begrudge me on their turf? Do I even belong there? Do I pursue a definitive diagnosis so that I will have a "place to be?" Agh! It's a tough place to be.

And while my child is high-functioning, we still deal with a lot, and I say a lot, of issues that an NT child doesn't.

So that brings me to no sane place but to say thanks for your post.

I'll keep working on my confusion.

Anonymous said...

We deal with two different special needs with two different special kiddos (tourettes, mild Aspergers/OCD), so I can even have the heirarchy right within my own household sometimes!! ;-) But I've been known to comfort myself with: "Yes, he tics all the time, but at least its not fill in blank here." And then some mom down the street is probably saying "Yes, my daughter has diabetes, but at least she doesn't twitch around like that kid down the street!" We are "comparers" by nature. Not something to be proud of, necessarily, but definitely normal. It is when we rise above that natural instinct, though, that we make the world a better place. You have made the world a better place today. Thanks for your post!

Phisch said...

At our old church, I knew of a woman who had Down's. Her family was full of intellectuals (engineers, profs at university, etc.). Their relationship was already tenuous but her parents turned her out when she got saved. Sad, huh?

We're just product of our culture and a lot of us value intelligence so you're just normal :) Praise God for conviction *and* for forgiveness!


Bobbie said...

I think it's perfectly normal to do that - heck, I find myself doing it between my kids - one HFA, one LFA. I say, "gods, at least they're both not like Mikey"... Mikey, who is my baby and who I love dearly and wouldn't trade for any neuro typical kid, yet still those thoughts surface, especially when he's done one of his eloping/escape attempts or is having that screaming meltdown. I think all we're really doing is wishing our burdens were less than they are, and if that's not normal, then I'm not human (well, lets not go there, shall we?) :-) I'd like to meet the special needs parent who says, "Gee, I'm not challenged enough - I wish ALL my kids had more issues."

TLC said...

mamikaze and mel: thanks for chiming in! I will try to cut myself some slack and be less of an idiot

elizabeth: there will Always be room on my team for you. The definitive diagnosis only counts in public school, for services. Beyond that, use your instincts. You fit where you think you fit.

topsytechie: what a nice thing to say! Thanks bunches!

phisch: I suppose it is human nature to fear differences, I hope it is Christ-like to fight them.

bobbie: thank you for weighing in. I love that your voice is part of the conversation. And true, who of us says, "I wish my kids had more issues?" Maybe it is just a part of coming to terms with what we have been dealt. As long as the attitude doesn't exclude others...that is what I want to make sure I don't do: make others feel bad.

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